Runcorn Town get their 2017/18 preseason campaign underway on Saturday with a trip to Chester to face Blacon Youth Club.
Matches between the two sides stretch back to October 1980 when we were Mond Rangers and playing in the Warrington League. Blacon inflicted a 3-0 loss in the First Round of the Cheshire Amateur Cup. The fixture commenced when we joined the West Cheshire League in 1984, and we played each other most seasons until we joined the NWCFL in 2010. Saturdays game will actually be our 50th meeting.
Our biggest win over Blacon was 8-0 in April 1995, whilst Blacons biggest win was 9-2 in April 2006, the game coming the afternoon after we won the Runcorn Cup on a Friday night, with several players still heavily hungover! We have scored 133 goals in this fixture, with Ian Urmson leading the way with ten goals scored in the late 80's, including two hat-tricks.
The last couple of years that we were in the West Cheshire League, Blacon struggled at the bottom of Division One. This continued until they made a decision at the end of 2015/16 to resign from the league and drop down to the Chester & Wirral League. It's fair to say that this was the correct decision, and last season saw Blacon revitalised under a new management team and new players. Blacon swept to a treble as they won the Premier Division title and the two league cups, narrowly being denied a quadruple with a penalty loss to Upton in the Chester Senior Cup.
Ahead of the game, we caught up with Town Manager Chris Herbert to get his thoughts on the fixture. He said, "I can not wait to get our pre-season going. Although the hard work has to be done on the training field first in any pre-season, and we have trained very hard, it is the games that all the players and managerial staff want to be involved in."
"The players are ready for the games and the games will come thick and fast with four games in the first week starting Saturday at Blacon on Saturday. Macca and myself have both had a spell as players in youth and senior level at Blacon, and we are looking forward to going back and taking our Runcorn Town team to Cairns Crescent.
"Blacon Youth have come on leaps and bounds over the last year. With Jordan Sharp and Matty Mackin in charge they won virtually everything they entered last season. They have moved up this season to the Cheshire League, and are definitely a club on the up.
"Jordan and Matty have got their team playing football the right way, and it's going to be a test for us to try and out play them. They work hard for each other and will not give us time on the ball, so I'm interested to see how we cope with their style of play. I want to see us able to work the opposition out early in games and then implement the way we want to play and try and dictate games our way.
"Attitude was a problem at times last season, in that we were turning up to lower league opposition and thinking they would role over for us, Blacon certainly don't have that in their armour, they don't give up and it's the type of game we would have slipped up in last season. I want to see how we are able to take control of games against a team who are very hungry and want to take us as a scalp for them. In possession we know we are as good as anyone, but we need to work when we don't have the ball, to get posession and see how quick can we get our front men on the ball.
"This season we are going to work harder than anyone also. We are going to Blacon with a 20 man squad, apart from Sebastian Julian, every player will feature. There is always a good crowd at Blacon so it will be a good game for everyone involved, and I look forward to seeing everyone there.
It should prove to be a competitive first friendly for both sides, and we look forward to catching up with Blacon after five years.
Please note that kick off is at 1.30pm, not 12.00noon as originally announced.